Swallowed in the Sea
By: David Serra
“Hal, you’re talking to yourself again.” Rebecca said.
I cleared my throat and apologized. We went over the different cover art for her new album. Her band was going on tour next week and she enlisted my help in designing a new cover.
“This one looks cool.” I pointed out.
My friend looked it over and narrowed her eyes. It depicted her and her band on the surface of the moon overlooking Earth. I added a flying saucer and rocket ship in space for good measures.
“This isn’t the 80s anymore,” Rebecca replied. “Don’t you have anything more up to date?”
“Well, I was just trying to be creative.”
“I know my bad. I just don’t think Josh would approve.”
I grimaced at the mention of her drummer. Shaking off the uncomfortable feeling I gave her the next batch of cover artworks when my mind started to wander again. I gazed out at the ocean from the pavilion but didn’t look at it. I could hear Rebecca shuffle through the papers and stop midway. She examined the aquatic-themed cover. It depicted her and her band playing underwater in a bubble amongst a variety of different fish.
“Hmm, this is neat,” she said, “Maybe tweak the bubble to an underwater hotel and we’ll talk.”
“Ok, sounds great.”
She handed me back my folders and I stuffed them into my satchel.
“Look, Hal, Take care of yourself. Tell your parents I said ‘hi.’”
“Will do, I’ve been doing better.”
An awkward pause befell us. She fidgeted with her glasses uneasily and I tried not to look her in the eyes. She put a hand on my shoulder, I flinched a little.
“You want to go to the docks?”
I followed her to the pier where the water sloshed against the pillars and the smell of the salty sea air filled my nostrils. We sat side by side and looked out at the bumpy sea. There was barely anyone around and the only sounds were the swishing waves and the caws of seagulls. I could’ve sat here for eternity if a crumpled-up soda can didn’t hit me in the back of the head.
We both spun around only to see Josh staring at us.
“Hey, Rebecca, idiot, are we going or what?”
“Josh, for the thousandth time, his name is Hal. We’ll go when we go.”
“We’re going now. It’s getting late so take your idiot with you and let’s go.”
Rebecca glared at him but gestured me to get up.
“Go on, I’ll walk back,” I replied, trying to hide the building anger in my voice.
“Come on, Hal. I’ll drive.”
“No, no. Go ahead.”
Rebecca hesitated for a minute before Josh stomped over and pushed me hard. I stumbled up only for Josh to slap me back down with a sneer.
“Josh! You jerk!” Rebecca swung at him, he deflected it and forcibly ushered her up the docks.
I strained up while holding back tears. Rubbing my face I searched for my satchel but it was gone. I realized Josh took it and was tearing up all my hard work. I started for him when I noticed something in the ocean. It was a vibrant blue light that shimmered beneath the surface. I took a step closer and my eyes widened. A beam of light shot out and zapped me. I felt my whole body come down with pins and needles, I let out a loud groan before losing my balance and falling into the water.
The cool Atlantic water swept over me, I was being dragged down into the depths by an unseen force. My body stretched, reshaped, and reformed. The light shimmered around me, all of my clothes tore off and the sides of my neck developed gill slits. I took in oxygen from the ocean with my newly formed gills. My hair fell out with my skin replaced with dark-green scales on top and light-green scales on my underside. My arms and legs retracted into my body with my hands redeveloping into lengthy dark-yellow fins. My tailbone sprouted out and grew longer into a tail with two tailfins at the end tip. A frilly dorsal fin protruded from my back that went from the back of my neck to where my body met my tail. Finally, my face pulled out and reshaped with my teeth becoming somewhat sharper. My eyes became slightly larger and more circular while still retailing their original looks but redeveloping so that I could see underwater. The finishing touches were added to my body. I breathed heavily through my gills, dazed and aching.
I could hear Rebecca’s frantic yells. The blue light faded away and my energy slowly returned. I looked up to see someone holding Rebecca back. A crowd gathered on the docks with the murmurs of concerned and gossipy people. Instinctively I flicked my tail and swam out into the depths. That’s when I saw it, a broken mirror on the bottom of the ocean floor. I swam for it and saw the large and slender fish staring back at me.
I jolted at the sight. Slowly regaining my composure I studied my new body. I was sleek with well-developed fins and gill structure. My color patterns made me blend in with the murkiness of the seawater. My awe turned to shock when I heard someone dive into the water. I turned around sharply, only to see Rebecca swimming down the pier.
“Rebecca!” I exclaimed.
She spun in my direction. We locked gazes for a moment before she swam back to the docks. A bystander helped her up. Even from underwater I could hear her talk to Josh.
“Call the police!” she screamed.
“No way Becky, I’m not going to jail,” Josh replied.
She shoved him out of the way and got out her phone. With no other choice I swam towards the open ocean with my sadness kicking into overdrive. Thoughts of my parents and sister flooding my mind, I sniffled while I continued to swim out into the abyss.
Things were about to get even more eventful on my journey to nowhere.
The night was fast approaching. I took shelter in some rocks as even in the dark I could see sharks frenzy in the distance. The strange thing was I didn’t feel tired or worn-out, I figure it was because I was a fish now. My hunger started to grow inside of me. I was craving krill or shrimp bizarrely enough. I settled near the entrance and continued to watch the sharks and fish frenzy in the distance. I was afraid and wishing I was safe at home with my family.
Morning came as quickly as it went. I ventured out into the open on high alert of anything dangerous that might attack me. While I swam farther out to sea the water grew clearer and I studied my surroundings. There were kelp stalks and endless sights of underwater scenery. A group of krill frolicked in front of me. I gobbled them up in a second. Strangely they didn’t have much of a taste but I didn’t care. Something brushed up against my right side, in a panic I spun around praying it wasn’t anything dangerous.
“Whoa, whoa sorry, did I startle you?” the remora said.
“Oh…” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness.”
“Sorry about that man. I just wanted to hitch a ride.”
I stared at the remora for a second. He was long and lean and no bigger than a pencil.
“Sure yeah, you can ride on me.”
“Cool, the name’s Luther by the way.”
Luther attached his sucker on the top of his head to the left side of my body. It didn’t feel like much as I continued to swim onward.
“So, Hal, what’s on your agenda?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m looking for purpose.”
“Ah, well I usually travel from fish to fish riding and ridding them of tasty critters. You looked lost so I thought I’d keep you company.”
“Oh, well thank you.”
I continued to travel through the ocean with Luther attached to my side. Melancholy took over me and I slowed a bit. I felt Luther nudge me.
“Is something wrong?” He asked. “You look a little blue.”
“I miss my family and Rebecca. They’re probably worried sick about me.”
“A friend of mine, she…” The words fell into my throat when I saw something up ahead.
Curiosity took over me, I ventured forward. From a distance it looked like an underwater tornado, but as I grew closer it appeared to be made up of smaller fish. I stopped and gasped loudly. I was mesmerized by the different silvery fish swirling around in front of us. They vanished in a flash into the depths of the abyss. A chill ran throughout me, something had scared them. A dark shadow loomed over us, I felt Luther say in a shivery voice, “You might want to head for the depths, Hal.”
I looked up, a huge great white shark was charging towards us. I shot through the water like a torpedo, the shark pursued. I zigzagged down into the depths and hid in a cave. The shark followed and swam by the entrance idly. Breathing hastily through my gills Luther and I exchanged a look. A hoarse but feminine voice from the dark called, “Use your power, Hal.”
“What?” I spun around but saw nothing.
There was a loud pounding on the rocks above. The shark was using its tail to bash the cave entrance. The cave almost collapsed on us, I hurried out into the open. The shark charged at us, mouth agape and dagger-like teeth exposed. I shot out an electrical beam from my mouth at the shark’s nose. It thrashed in pain before retreating into the darkness.
“Whoa!” Luther was astonished, “You didn’t tell me you could do that.”
“I… I-I-I…” I sputtered, “Who was that?”
“That was Ellison. I’ve ridden him before, grouchy guy.”
“No-no-no not the shark that voice, didn’t you hear it?’
“Oh that. That was Oliviana.”
I felt my brain doing backflips.
“You must be new around here. No one’s ever seen her although they say she’s a centuries-old sea serpent.”
“A sea serpent,” my heart pounded in my body, “What can you tell me about her?”
“Nothing really, she’s very mysterious and like I said no one’s ever seen her.”
I swam out of the trench and we continued to venture farther into the ocean. Luther was great company and it was only going to get even more interesting.
I continued to swim out through the sea with Luther attached to my side and questions filled to the brim in my mind. The obvious ones being why did Oliviana help me? Why was I here? How could I shoot electrical beams from my mouth? I was growing dizzy from wanting to know the answers that I almost didn’t notice a swordfish in the distance. I froze the swordfish appeared to be struggling and trying to slash at something. It didn’t take long for me to see the boat above us, that’s when I realized the swordfish was hooked on a line and was trying to slash free.
“Come on reel it in!” I heard the fisherwoman shout from above.
“Get off of me!” The swordfish cried. She was fighting for her life.
After a quick evaluation I decided I should help her. I bolted towards the line and bit it in two. The swordfish sped into the depths as the fisherwoman tumbled to the deck. Before I left I heard a fisherman say. “Did you see that? What kind of fish was that?”
Once I was away from the boat Luther said, “Well aren’t you a big hero.”
“I was just in the right place at the right time.”
“So modest are we.”
I rolled my eyes and was about to go forth when the swordfish appeared in front of us. She had an on and off strange look on her face.
“What was the big idea huh?” She demanded.
“I-I… I just wanted to help.”
“Ah, right well now I got this stupid hook stuck in my mouth. It’s going to take who knows how long until it comes out.”
“We can take it out for you.” Luther replied.
“You two can take this out? Don’t make me laugh.”
“If it’s all right with you that is.” I said.
She rolled her eyes and tilted her head to show us the hook. Luther attached himself to her mouth and held the hook steady. I took the hook gently in my mouth and with a small electric pulse the hook broke in two and came loose. She rightfully spat out the hook and the pieces sank to the bottom.
Luther reattached himself to my side and were about to swim away when the swordfish called. “Hey wait. I didn’t catch your names.”
“I’m Luther, this is Hal.”
“The name’s Mary. Where are you going?”
“I don’t really know yet.” I replied.
“Hmm, mind if I tag along?”
Luther and I exchanged a look with each other.
“Sure yeah if you want.” I said.
“Great, glad to hear it Hal.”
The three of us ventured forth while my mind wandered to Rebecca and my family. I was feeling homesick again but that was going to be the least of my worries.